I know that some people have been irritated by Pam lately, but for my money, this has been a standout season for Jenna Fischer. In fact, I think you can trace Pam’s six-season character arc as a kind of rise to power – the slow-motion emergence of a shy person’s extroverted soul. Remember when Pam was engaged to a doofus, just a quiet receptionist with a crazy boss and a dead-end future? (After her season 3 coal-walking speech, Oscar admitted that he’d barely ever heard her speak. Clearly, the Finer Things Club hadn’t been invented yet.) Compare that to the woman she is now: outgoing, goofy, maybe a little too willing to stick her nose in other people’s business, but only because she genuinely cares about those other people.
I guess you could equally argue that Pam Beesley is a more farcical version of Pam Beesley, and that time inevitably broadens sitcom characters into ever-more-loudmouth caricatures of themselves. Well, maybe. But it seems to me that there’s a very organic through line from season 1 Pam to the Pam who tried to choreograph the whole office into a post-breakup support group for Michael. Pam claimed this was as much practical as personal: “When Michael has a broken heart, the whole place comes to a halt.”
But Michael was curiously unresponsive. He liked the ice cream, of course, but he didn’t like it enough to drown his sorrows in it. Nor did he respond when Jim and Pam invited him over for dinner and Rock Band: Billy Joel, which let’s hope never actually exists ever. Pam: “Are you still seeing Donna?” Michael: “Since when is this an office when we delve into each other’s personal lives?”
Seriously, when? I’m worried that I sometimes sound like a broken record here, and it’s not as if I don’t want any relationship drama on The Office. (I realize that they’re both played by writers who probably don’t have as much filming time as the rest of the cast, but I would be extraordinarily happy with a Kelly/Ryan episode.) But part of the fun of The Office used to be its secrecy: You could see that all these characters were weird, but that weirdness was always peeking out under the cover of everyday work attire.
Now, everything’s a freaking colloquium. Everyone was various shades of shocked by Michael’s choice to continue his contemptuous cuckoldry. Meredith: “I’ve never been cheated on, cheated on, or been used to cheat with.” Michael argued that Scranton was the Paris of Northeastern Pennsylvania, which shows that he’s never been to Carbondale. Anyways, Donna’s husband is a high school baseball coach, and all sportsmen are terrible people, as he learned on Real Sports with Bryant Gumball.
Andy took a personal interest in all the cheating drama, having been a cuckold himself. As Andy explained to Michael, “You’re Ali Larter, I’m Beyoncé.” Andy wanted to put a human face on Michael’s sin, so they went to watch the coach’s team play. Viewers, I can laugh at Andy’s particular über-dweeb way of yelling “Base-BALL!” but this whole baseball misadventure was kind of a time-fill. That being said, it was almost worth it when the coach-cuckold mistook Andy and Michael for husbands, and Andy explained, “No. But we’re gay for baseball.” Between that and “Beer me that CD,” Andy Bernard is doing his part to deconstruct the English language, and I love it!
Now, here’s where things took a turn. I figured that Michael would realize the error of his ways. But no: He wanted to be bad. He shook the hand of his girlfriend’s husband, and felt like James Bond. He stole some after-game treats for the office: “That’s not the first time I stole something away from Coach Shane.” Zing! “From now on, when I’m hungry, I’ll eat,” he proclaimed. He ate Meredith’s cake. He doesn’t care! Anarchy supreme!
Michael’s new evil confidence briefly inspired Ryan, which in turn inspired the night’s funniest exchange:
Ryan: (to Erin) “I think you’re attractive. And I wanna sleep with you.”
Erin: “What about Kelly?”
Ryan: “You read my mind.”
Erin: “Is this a joke?”
Meanwhile, Dwight and Angela had an extended lawyer-mediated breakup session. Angela threatened Dwight, “I’m going to own your farm by the time this is over.” The lawyer claimed that Dwight would have to claim $30,000, which was a problem, because Dwight’s money is all buried: “I don’t want to dig past a certain someone to get it.” Creepy forever, Schrute! Dwight settled on five intercourse sessions, and darned if Dwight and Angela didn’t both look turned on by the prospect of punitive coupling. (Although Dwight tried some old remedies for sperm destruction: “Schrute sperm are strong. But not as strong as a fully-grown Schrute.”) They returned to their old sexing grounds…and were overheard by Jim and Pam, who were catching some Z’s in the warehouse quiet area.
Ultimately, Michael couldn’t go through with it. He bragged about his badassery – “The stuff we’re into isn’t condo-appropriate.” But some essential goodness in his character won out. “I had a choice. Either living with myself, or being happy.” Coming at the end of a mostly light episode, that was a heavy line. Nice payoff, Office.
Oh, and what a sneaky extra payoff: while the credits ran, some news people from the local NBC affiliate attack-reported Michael. He adorably confessed to his crime: “I want to publicly apologize to the coach and the players.” But no, they were there about the exploding Sabre printers. Is it weird that the reason I’m most excited for the season finale is because I want to see how Sabre’s stock price weathers this bad publicity?
Other fun stuff:
- It’s always great when an idea gets thrown around the conference room. Today, the idea was: how best to execute Toby, Bin Laden, and Hitler? Angela thought this was a good opportunity to use an icicle (no evidence!). Creed noted that they should probably curve the bullet, just like James McAvoy in Wanted, which is Creed’s favorite James McAvoy film. Oscar pointed out that curving the bullet wouldn’t help. Dwight won the day, naturally: one bullet through all three throats.
- There were a couple of two-person confessionals in this episode: Pam and Erin, and Dwight and Angela. They didn’t used to do so many two-persons, right? Or am I crazy?
- On the scale of totally wrong things Michael has ever said to Stanley, this is the wrongest, but also maybe the funniest: “Okay, Morgan Freeman narrating everything.”
What did you think of the episode, viewers? Definitely kind of a quiet outing, but did it get you excited about the season finale?